Crazy Case in NM

This is a rather strange story about the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary in NM who says they received three anonymous phone calls regarding an abused Yorkie at the Bureau of Land Management offices in Santa Fe.  Someone from the sanctuary went to the location and was captured on video surveillance removing the dog from a partially enclosed outdoor area of the facility.

The dog’s owner, a maintenance man at the Bureau of Land Management, took the dog (called Crazy) to work with him every day.  The owner had left him tied in the outdoor area briefly and returned to find him gone.  He called authorities, suspecting Crazy had been stolen.

Video surveillance of that event was published on The New Mexican‘s website Oct. 2 along with a news article. After it was clear from interviews that the dog was not abused, police say a friend of the bagman contacted law enforcement.

At that point, the dog, “Crazy” had already been placed for adoption with a family from Denver. That family, when informed about the mishap, offered the dog’s owner, Hector Gardea-Romero, $2,500 for the dog. He declined.

Police say no evidence exists that the dog was ever abused and their call for the public to respond with tips regarding the dog’s abuse has gone unanswered.  Crazy and owner are now reunited.  The sanctuary owner and the employee who took the dog are charged with larceny.

The sanctuary owner drove to the sheriff’s office to discuss the case Thursday in a vehicle carrying 15 dogs.  While she was inside, a local TV reporter notified AC that dogs were in distress in a vehicle at the sheriff’s office parking lot.  AC showed up, found the temperature inside the vehicle was 111 degrees, and seized the dogs.  One of the seized pups had a body temperature of 107 according to the sheriff.  Natalie Owings, the sanctuary owner, now faces 15 counts of misdemeanor cruelty in addition to the theft charge:

Depending on the money value placed on the stolen pet, the larceny charge can range from a petty misdemeanor to a fourth-degree felony, but jail time isn’t likely for Owings or her co-worker as neither has a criminal record. The animal neglect charges are all petty misdemeanors and would each carry a $50 fine.

Following the news story on the case (nope, it’s not over yet), several area residents whose dogs have gone missing phoned up the sheriff wondering if their pets could have been stolen by this sanctuary.  AC officers visited the rescue yesterday to take photos and scan pets for microchips in an effort to sort things out.

Stay tuned.

17 thoughts on “Crazy Case in NM

  1. Well, there you go. Kidnapping. Didn’t somebody suggest that was an appropriate action to take?
    Anonymous tips suck. People act on them only when they have an agenda that suits.

  2. New Mexico is rife with do-gooders. Rife. If any state falls to mandatory spay neuter it’ll be that one. My one experience with animal control in one county in NM was too much, I decided against moving there. Craziness.

  3. While there may yet be more to this, thus far it appears to be what it is. Comments from others and even the sheriff in her favor. Several years of 990 tax forms look quite good and she doesn’t even take a salary and has held on for many years now.

    It just appears she has gone too far (in legal terms) in trying to help the dogs. More direct information will likely have to wait until their investigation is over. I have seen this before with others, as their frustrations build over the years, driving them to do things they shouldn’t do. Needless to say, if they find more missing dogs at her shelter this will escalate.

    She is plainly the driving force behind that shelter, and if that shelter truly is as it appears to be, it would be very unfortunate if this continued much further. While there’s no real excuse for those left dogs in that truck, I can understand her distraction at being presented with criminal charges.

    Unlike a previous comment, my experiences with NM AC has been far more positive than with many other states.

  4. jezus- 107? that’s at death’s door. Regardless about all the other stuff, who the hell works in Animal Welfare and leaves pets in the car?!

    1. Sorry, Anne, but over many years I’ve seen many mistakes being made. I don’t condemn people unless the mistakes are repeated. Yes, even I have made mistakes…

      This brings to mind a (very) large shelter with about 500 dogs, who isolated one dog in a small bathroom during mid-summer. When going to feed him, they found he had collapsed with heatstroke. He was treated at a clinic and recovered, then two days later was returned to the same bathroom, and it happened again. Those who protested this were told to shut up.

      Comparing the two, Natalie Owings has no salary and devotes all her time to the animals. The “large shelter”, however, has paid employees and takes in nearly $40 million/year.

      1. whether or not you’re paid to do a job shouldn’t affect common sense. The woman lives in Nevada- she should be well aware of the fatal results of leaving pets in a car

        Are you saying that first time ‘offenders’ should be let off the hook for a mistake because they had never made the mistake before? That reasoning doesn’t jive with me.

      2. Anne, I am not speaking of “letting people off the hook”, but only that we’re not perfect. That some people can learn from their mistakes and get better. Over the years, working with thousands of dogs and cats, I’ve made some mistakes. Should I have immediately stopped working with animals? Should I have been punished? And what about you? Have you ever made a mistake?

        And, have you ever walked into a Sheriff’s Office and found criminal charges against you? Were you completely calm and relaxed when you heard this?

        I am saying that we need to put this into perspective. To look at the person, the situation and the history. This is clearly not a situation like you read about here at many other shelters. Yes, she made several mistakes here, but that doesn’t negate the good she has and may still do for the animals.

      3. I’m not saying she should be removed from her position and never work with animals again. i’m just saying there should be consequences for her mistake- even if it was a stupid one.

      4. Anne, it we put that as reasonable consequences, I’ll have to agree with you. Although here intentions were good, it appears that some of her activities went too far.

  5. Oh, No! I have only had one direct encounter with Natalie and she came across to me as genuinely caring, with it, and not a crazy person. Based on my prior experience and the experiences of people I know, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. (Yes, I know she is also innocent until proven guilty…I am just talking opinion).

    Maybe she was transporting dogs (I know she does a lot of that) and they told her “come down, it will only take 5 minutes” and maybe she parked in the shade, it’s fall, and she cracked the windows but it ended up taking a lot more time than she had expected. Maybe she was inside telling someone she had to get back out to her dogs and they wouldn’t let her leave.

    Maybe the people giving her tips weren’t really anonymous, maybe they were people she knew and generally trusted to make good decisions.

    Recently in New Mexico there was the case of the psychopath killing his dog with a chainsaw. A lot of people tried to help this dog before this happened but they were stymied by the law. I am not going to make a blanket statement saying you should steal dogs being neglected or abused (because it’s illegal and you might be wrong about them being abused/neglected)but I can understand why someone might do it.

    I am very glad that little dog was reunited with his owner. Even though his name was Crazy he got to go to work with his owner, and that’s pretty cool.

    Just weird.

  6. An update to this can be found at

    It states in part:
    “Fire department personnel helped police in measuring the temperature of the animals and the truck with a digital laser thermometer. According to the report: “(An officer) pointed the laser at a small puppy and it registered 107.9 degrees. He then checked the temperature at the top of the camper shell and it registered at 111 degrees.”

    Which explains a few things that alarmed people. Try letting your dog walk around in the sun for a few minutes, then point a laser thermometer at him (but don’t panic). Next, even with windows partly open, the highest temp in a vehicle will be at the top and can be quite different lower down. They should have checked the temp of the carpet the dogs sat on for a far better indicator.

    I agree (again) that leaving those dogs there was wrong. But, as we often find, some implications are just not supported by the facts.

  7. A little more background for context. After the Santa Fe Animal Shelter checked the dogs in her truck,

    “In addition to the 11 animals Owings picked up on Monday, she also took with her two Chihuahuas from the shelter. The two dogs, one elderly, have been overlooked at the crowded shelter and will get special treatment at the sanctuary, said Kelly Tribelhorn, the shelter’s medical services manager.”

    And then,
    “Later Monday, the shelter also took 14 puppies to the sanctuary, said Paul Vigil, a sanctuary worker.”

    So, in addition to all the people who called the sheriff in support of her, the city animal shelter clearly appreciates and endorses her work with the animals.

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